English Literature



A Christmas Carol


What is some of the historical context surrounding A Christmas Carol?

2 years ago


2 Replies




Eldora Parker

2 Answers

Wendy E

In the mid-nineteenth century, London was a crowded, dirty place. Industries were not regulated and there was widespread pollution which resulted in exploitation of the work force. Many of the workers were children who were required to work fourteen-hour days in order to help their families pay the bills. If they were unable to pay their bills, they might end up in Debtor's Prison—as Dickens' family did, when he was twelve. Dickens described the squalid, dirty condition of London in vivid detail.


During Queen Victoria’s reign, the Christmas tradition gained much popularity. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, brought the German tradition, of decorating the Christmas tree, to England. The Industrial Revolution was creating a population shift from the rural areas to cities because new manufacturing techniques required more workers. This growing urban population found much comfort in the Christmas traditions. As the city became more and more crowded and dirty, the citizens looked forward to celebrations, especially Christmas.

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It is important to consider the class divide and the attitudes that the higher class had towards working-class people. This brings us to the idea that the popular theorist Thomas Malthus proposed, that the poor were poor out of choice! As preposterous as this sounds now, many upper-class individuals believed that helping the working class would encourage them to be idle and live immoral lifestyles.

This is reflected through Scrooge's early attitudes in the novella, where he vocalises that "if they would rather die [...] they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population, insinuating that he does not value the lives of the lower class people as he believes that they do not contribute anything to society, which makes them the surplus.

The only help that was provided for the poor people in Victorian society was the workhouses. They were implemented as a means to punish people by straining them with laborious tasks such as unpicking rope, stone breaking and wood chopping to be fed insufficient meals and sleep in poor conditions.

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